Who is allowed to talk about equality, diversity and inclusion?

Lachlan Smith is Director of Cloud Chamber. He supports the Higher Education sector, both in the UK and globally, understand the impact of their research, develop effective research cultures and improve their ability to secure research funding. He has supported a range of institutions and funders including the Royal Society, British Academy and Kings College London. He has delivered workshops in Shanghai and Nairobi, supporting early career researchers access funding and he is an advocate for diversity and LGBT+ inclusion, delivered through his collaboration with Diversiunity. He previously worked in research development at the University of Warwick as well as roles in the civil service and economic development consultancy. He tweets from @HEresearchfund.

This post was written by Lachlan with contributions from Jakob Feldtfos Christensen, who is director of Diversiunity. Jakob provides workshops and consultancy in diversity and internationalisation in research and research management in collaboration with Cloud Chamber. Diversiunity also provide workshops and consultancy for Principal Investigators managing international projects and leadership courses for upcoming research leaders with an LGBT+ background. Before starting his own company, he worked first as a research advisor in the research support office and later as an international coordinator at Aarhus University in Denmark. He is a certified research manager from EARMA, where he has been active for several years. He tweets from @diversiunity.


Image by Volodymyr Hryshchenko | unsplash.com

For many years, I lived as an out gay man. Out in most aspects of my life, anyway, but I didn’t openly talk about my sexuality, LGBT+ issues in general, or the unique challenges of being a gay man.

This all changed for me when I came out at my local cricket club. I had played there for a couple of years but keeping my private life shut off was damaging my relationships with teammates as well as leading to poorer performances on the field. Since coming out, I have been more open about who I am, which means encouraging greater equality in my club and more broadly within cricket, an environment that is very heteronormative and masculine. This has felt appropriate and right. I’m definitely in a minority both at the club and within cricket more generally. Gay men have often found sports, and team sports in particular, to be hostile environments leading to exclusion and lower participation. While most of my interests and activity in this area has related specifically to LGBT+ inclusion, I always try to talk about and promote equality, diversity and inclusion more generally. I’ve learnt a lot from my experiences as a gay man in a traditionally straight sporting environment, both before and since coming out and I’ve talked about them in blogs and for Sky Sports. My views are seen as valid, I’m a minority voice, this isn’t questioned. My experiences count.

Since coming out within a sporting context I have invested more time in understanding equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues in all parts of my life and in the world around me. This has included recognising that gay men and other LGBT+ people have unique experiences, stories and lessons within the higher education (HE) sector, the sector in which I have worked for the last decade. With more and more of my work taking on an international dimension it has become clear to me that the experiences of the LGBT+ community within international HE can be profound and unique and drawing on these experiences can offer challenge and lessons across the spectrum of diversity and inclusion both within and outside of HE. Read more of this post

Living the COVID life

Image from the Goethe-Institut Chicago | www.facebook.com/pg/goetheinstitut.chicago
Image from the Goethe-Institut Chicago | http://www.facebook.com/pg/goetheinstitut.chicago

I’ve always enjoyed memes but I never thought I’d come to depend on them to recalibrate my moods.

I’m a person who loves working from home, using communication technologies, and social media. I also tend towards introversion.

You would think that shifting to the current context would be easy and even desirable, with so many of my colleagues and organisations in the sector moving to online-only ‘campuses’ and teaching/ research from home. I thought so, too, for about three days or so…

But let me start at the beginning: Read more of this post

Life as a writer outside the boundaries of academia

Alex Goldberg is a scientific writer and social media manager for GA International.

He has a PhD in biology and previously worked as a postdoc in toxicology and medicine, having studied chronological lifespan in yeast, anti-neoplastic small molecules, and the biology of lymphangioleiomyomatosis

You can find Alex on LinkedIn.

 


Photo by Filip Kominik | unsplash.com

Photo by Filip Kominik | unsplash.com

No one who aspires to a fancy job as a tenured research professor in the life sciences should read this article.

For those who wish to follow this career path, I can give only one piece of advice: make sure it’s EXACTLY what you want out of life.

Life as an Academic

I started out relatively modestly as a graduate student in the fall of 2004. I wasn’t sure if I wanted a career in film production or biology, and because going into film meant repeating classes and working at Starbucks simultaneously, I opted into a Master’s degree, which paid a bit of money and allowed me some flexibility to learn about something I loved and to figure out the rest of my career later on.

My project was fresh and interesting, and I was given every opportunity to make my own way, reaching out to collaborators and carving out a small niche for myself in neuroscience and cancer. I was supported immensely by my Principal Investigator, who encouraged me to do my own thing and publish what I was interested in.

After seven years of grad studies, I was sure that I wanted to become a professor like my Principal Investigator. There were things I wanted to do differently, topics I didn’t have funding for that I wanted to get into. I even had my choice of postdoctoral positions lined up for me when I graduated, and I took the job where I’d get the most flexibility to create new projects for myself. I built up a smorgasbord of results, characterized around fifteen different compounds, published in some respectable journals, then figured I’d go and apply for professor positions by the end of my second year.

Up until then, I was enthusiastic about staying in academia. I was sure someone would notice my work and get back to me, if only for an interview. Read more of this post

When you choose to re-locate

Dr Donna Weeks is an international relations academic specialising in Japan-Australia relations, Japanese and Australian politics and society and related areas. 

In April 2016, Donna relocated to Tokyo to take up a position in the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law at Musashino University. 

She blogs at Psephy’s ~ologies and tweets from @psephy. Donna is also on Instagram as @psephyspix, where she documents everyday #tokyolyf.


"Walking to work" | Photo by Donna Weeks

“Walking to work” | Photo by Donna Weeks

When your first degree was in Asian Studies and your first overseas trip was as an undergraduate exchange student to Japan, in some ways it shouldn’t be surprising that you end up in a teaching / research position in a university in Tokyo.

But when people here learn that the lecturer in Japanese politics and security is in fact an Anglo / Australian and the course will be taught in Japanese (with an occasional English flourish), there is inevitably a little bit of explaining to do.

This post addresses a question I’m often asked: What factors contributed to a mid-to-late career decision to leave your home city, family, community, friends and the familiar and take up a position overseas?

It speaks to the question of how mobile should we be expected to be in pursuing our careers in academia.

While the weighing up of the factors in any decision ‘to go’ will be many and varied, at the other end, the decision ‘to return’ might be equally vexing. In my case, the opportunity to pursue my research in a way not afforded to me in Australia was, in the first instance, my main motivator in ‘returning’ to Japan to work. But as I enter my fifth year here, with a visa requiring renewal, I find myself setting a different set of parameters that have more to do with questions about ‘What next?’.

There are several reasons why I chose this stage of my career to move to Japan, not the least being the current political environment in Japan and Australia (that’s not a political comment – that is my field of research). Read more of this post

Looking like a scientist

Dr Emma Beckett is an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow and Lecturer in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

She is also a passionate science communicator, aiming to empower consumers to make evidence-based decisions.

She can be found @synapse101 on Twitter, @DrEmmaBeckett on Facebook and @emmie_101 on Instagram. Her ORCID is 0000-0002-8888-3789.


Photo courtesy of Emma Beckett.

Photo courtesy of Emma Beckett.

I have a wardrobe full of food-print dresses, hundreds of pairs of food shaped earrings, a collection of food-themed hair accessories, and even a handbag shaped like a lemon wedge.

If you follow me on social media, you will see a new combination of foods multiple times a week. But I’m not a fashion account –  I’m a Food and Nutrition Scientist and Science Communicator. I say, “Come for the food fashion, stay for the food science!”

I didn’t deliberately set out to “build a brand” or become a caricature of myself, but when I stop and reflect on how I ended up here, I’m not sad and I’m not surprised. I am living my best Ms Frizzle life and loving it.

I’m an identical twin

Having a genetic clone, I’ve always used hair, makeup, clothes and accessories to reduce confusion and set myself apart from my sister.

After I finished my PhD and started my fellowship, I went through a phase of “dressing professionally” as I tried to mimic what I saw in the workplace around me. I felt like I lost myself for a little bit in that time, looking in the mirror I didn’t see me, I saw my twin sister. Read more of this post

How I build bridges

Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction (July 1930). National Museum of Australia, 1986.0117.6558

Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction (July 1930). National Museum of Australia, 1986.0117.6558

A little while ago, I spent a morning writing introductory letters to people. They came about for a range of reasons:

  • A friend had asked me if I knew someone who could help with qualitative methodology and analysis. I knew a consultant who could help.
  • A colleague was looking for work, and I offered to introduce her to some senior researchers who might know of some opportunities for her.
  • A friend had said that her daughter wanted to be an astronaut. Turned out that I knew two women who were associated with space programs.

One of those people suggested that I write a post on how I go about making introductions between strangers. This is that post.

One of the things that I love about my job is that I get to talk to academics about their research. Because I sit in a Faculty (or College) research office, I talk to people from a range of different Departments and Schools. I end up knowing a little bit about the work of a lot of people.

Occasionally, I talk to researchers who are looking at different aspects of the same problem. When I do that, I like to introduce them to each other. A lot of the time, I suspect that not much comes of it – maybe they have a coffee. Maybe they are too busy. However, when it does work, it seems to work quite well. People meet for a coffee, talk about their respective interests. Sometimes, there is enough there for something more to happen. Most of the time, it is just a pleasant interlude amongst the hurry-scurry of modern academia. But it is enough, I think, to have introduced people who respect one another’s work, given them a different view on their research and created a weak tie between the academic silos.

Read more of this post

What harm can it do? The emotional cost of asking for something in academia

Kylie Smith is Assistant Professor and the Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow for Nursing and the Humanities in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University in Atlanta.

She is a historian, not a nurse, and loves working with nurses as colleagues and students.

Kylie teaches history, ethics and social justice to nurses, and undertakes research on the history of psychiatry. She tweets from @drkyliesmith. Her ORCID is 0000-0002-9249-0355


 

Photo by Keagan Henman | unsplash.com

In academia, people tell you all the time to just go ahead and ask for what you need. ‘What harm can it do?’, they ask. Or, being a woman, they say, “Think what a man would do and do that”, as though it’s literally that easy.

Of course, it should be that easy, but we all know that it’s not.

It’s well understood that women are socialised to undervalue our authority, to put other people’s needs ahead of our own, to think we are not worth what we are actually worth, to not want to be a bother, a burden, or to annoy people by asking. And we all know we should just be our feminist hero selves and get over it, as studies repeatedly show how embedded sexism is in the academy. Sometimes, though, there’s more going on than just gender socialisation.

A recent experience of mine demonstrated how many layers there are to a simple ‘ask for what you need’ instance, and how much more there is to overcome than what society has already told you. For me, I realised how much my own emotional baggage shaped my fears, and how very realistic fears generated by the deliberate precarity of the academic workplace make it genuinely hard to ask for what we need. Read more of this post